Ladies - Are We too Mean to Each Other?
We’ve all seen the popular, sharp-humored movie Mean Girls - Unless you’ve been living under a rock, in which case I highly suggest you log into your Netflix account and watch it. It’s quite popular, with a 7.0 star rating on IMDB and constant references all over the internet. I guess you could say it’s pretty damn fetch. Although the movie is fictional, is the plot an all-too-accurate representation of high school cliques, and more specifically, the way girls treat each other?
It’s no secret that girls are mean. How many times have you walked in on a conversation in which a group of ladies were horrendously bashing another female? How many times have you started a conversation like this? I highly doubt there is a single girl who has attended high school who can truthfully say that they haven’t been in at least one of the aforementioned situations. I’ve caught myself doing it plenty of times, freely, and without care of the other person’s feelings. But why would I do something like that? Generally, I’m a friendly, easy going, and good-humored person. But once that “shit-talking” mode was on, I couldn’t help myself from picking apart every detail that I didn’t like about someone. I’m not proud of it at all, and I can gladly say that for the most part, I don’t do that anymore. I guess you could call me a “recovering-shit-talker.” The fact of the matter is, my circumstances are not unique. I believe that there is a large amount of adolescent females who are decent human beings, but just get caught up in the fake, dramatic reality that we call high school. It has, unfortunately, become a commonly accepted fact of life that girls are going to bash one another behind each other’s backs. It’s sad.
The kind of bullying depicted in Mean Girls is referred to as Relational Aggression. But what does that even mean? According to bullying.about.com relational aggression "involves social manipulation such as excluding others from a group, spreading rumors, breaking confidences and getting others to dislike another person." To those going through this type of bullying, it is so much more than that. It means crying yourself to sleep, depression, anxiety, the feeling of hopelessness, and most of all, loneliness. It’s a terrible reality, and it is present in high schools all over the country. It can be difficult for teachers and parents to detect, and even more difficult for them to stop. It includes gossiping, rumors, backstabbing, cyberbullying, slut-shaming, taunting, exclusion, unfriendly body language, and a considerably high number of other emotionally abusive based tactics. There have been many cases where girls have become so miserable that they have taken their own lives. And to think, many adults faced with the problem that their child may be on either end of this vicious cycle, their conclusion is to “let the kids work it out themselves.” This can create a sense of helplessness for the victim in question.
Still, there is a pressing question on the table. Exactly why are girls so mean to each other? From what I have observed, I think that girls use cruelty and bullying to create a sense of power within a group of people. Anyone can become a target at anytime. If a “popular” girl doesn’t like your hair, you are now a target. Or perhaps, she does like your hair, and now you’re a target due to the product of jealousy. Maybe you’re a target because of your weight, being taunted because "real women have curves," or "you’re too fat to wear those shorts." Maybe it’s even the way you dress, and girls make fun of you for being slutty, poor, lazy, or goth. We make these statements because we want to make ourselves look better than the person we are targeting. And even if we’re not the one being targeted, some of us are hesitant to stick up for the victims of bullying, in fear that we may become a target as well.
Relational Aggression has to stop. Females should be empowering one another, not degrading them. We all go through the same struggles as a teenage girl. If boys, school, periods, and family weren’t enough stress for a young lady, then the pressure to fit in among peers sure takes the cake. Male or female, if you see someone going through this cruel brand of bullying, PLEASE do everything in your power to stick up for them. Even just letting them know that they are not alone may be enough to save a life.